Paul doesn’t concede, but intends to lead

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Times Staff Writer

The “Ron Paul Revolution” isn’t over until Ron Paul says it’s over. And he’s not done yet.

Amid reports that Paul would formally end his presidential campaign, the iconoclastic Texas Republican congressman instead told supporters Thursday night that he intended to lead a “Campaign for Liberty” movement to give libertarians a bigger say within the GOP.

During his campaign over the last year, “something happened . . . I know we struck a chord,” Paul said during a rambling speech at a hotel rally in Houston near the Texas Republican Convention.

Although Paul stopped short of a formal declaration at the rally that his presidential run was over, he acknowledged -- as he has before -- that he lacked enough delegates to win. Sen. John McCain of Arizona sewed up enough delegates in early March.


In an interview with the Associated Press, Paul characterized his latest move as a “technical change” and said his campaign was “going to shift gears.”

But Paul, 72, had symbolically held off on conceding the nomination and said he did not intend to endorse McCain, with whom he clashed over the Iraq war and other issues.

Paul says he hopes the Campaign for Liberty will harness some of the enthusiasm his campaign generated to force grass-roots reforms on the Republican Party.

“We’ll identify and support political candidates who champion our great ideas against the empty suits the party establishments offer the public,” Paul said in a statement on the Campaign for Liberty website. “We will be a permanent presence on the American political landscape. That I promise you.”

Paul’s most notable achievement in the presidential campaign was the $34 million raised on his behalf, most of it by grass-roots supporters operating outside the campaign itself. That sum was more than twice the amount raised by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. At the end of April, Paul still had $4.7 million in the bank.

Yet the fundraising success didn’t translate into many votes. By the Associated Press’ count, Paul garnered only 24 delegates and won no primaries or caucuses.


Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq made his campaign a political refuge for antiwar Republicans, and his insistence on a reduced international role for the United States attracted those uncomfortable with the size of the U.S. government.

His other political views have veered far from the mainstream, including a belief that programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and drug law enforcement, should eventually end because they fall outside what he regards as the proper role of government. He also calls for the U.S. to leave the United Nations.

Supporters have been trying to use party rules at state conventions to wrest more delegates for Paul, and they have lobbied national party figures to demand that he be given a speaking role at the national GOP convention.

Perhaps anticipating that the effort will fall short, Paul has scheduled a daylong rally at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on Sept. 2, the second day of the GOP convention, which will take place across the Mississippi River in St. Paul.

It was unclear how much of a schism Paul could represent within the party -- or whether he could coalesce already disaffected conservatives.

“It depends on his definition of libertarianism, which is a very elastic term,” said John J. Pitney Jr., an analyst at Claremont McKenna College. “Paul’s own brand of libertarianism might not have a large following, but a broader definition that is Republican -- fiscal conservative but less conservative on social issues -- that brand might have a following.”


Chuck Muth, a libertarian Republican activist in Carson City, Nev., welcomed Paul’s move. He said the Republican Party needed to find ideological room for libertarians or lose them to the independent Libertarian Party, whose presidential candidate is Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia.

“And it’s not just libertarians,” Muth said. “Conservatives have been having problems with the Republican Party for a few years now. It cost them in 2006. If they don’t learn their lesson, it will cost them in 2008.”

Paul, an obstetrician/gynecologist, garnered few delegates during the GOP nomination fight, but his army of followers spread his name far and wide. Their “Revolution” signs -- with the “evol” transposed to read “love,” so that they read Rloveution -- cropped up on lawns and street corners around the nation, and his supporters have been a steady and occasionally inflammatory presence in cyberspace.